28 may 12 off to a good start

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start to summer, and in Alaska, that typically means the start of a race to cram as much Life as we can into the many hours of daylight we have.  I've taken a different approach the last few years.  Instead of scrambling to pack up for a long weekend of camping/boating/rafting/get-out-of-town and driving north/south with half of Anchorage, I stay home.

Paul still does an overnight raft trip on the Susitna River with some friends.  I do miss that raft trip but I must express a measure of self-satisfaction and calm as he shops for food, pulls camping gear out of the garage, and scurries around to get north to the put-in on time.  All that will come for me for trips that we do together this summer.  I prefer to start my summer at a slower pace, to savor the longer days, the warmer weather (hopefully), and my time outside in a quiet neighborhood.

I concentrate on gardening on this long weekend.  This is the recommended time to plant most vegetables and flowers in our area, and it usually takes me most of the weekend to do so.  This year I'm behind on cleaning up perennial flower beds because of the tendonitis in my shoulder, so there's been extra weeding and raking to do.  If I can get most of the weeds this weekend, I stand a chance of staying ahead of them despite the fact that we'll be gone almost every other weekend this summer.
Soon I'll be caught up in maximizing my use of the daylight even though it often requires ignoring the fact that the weather may not be very summery.  Maybe you really do need to live through six months of cold, white landscape and dark to understand how 70 can be considered hot and 80 is a reason to close offices.  After this winter of record snow and prolonged deep cold, I'm still amazed at how green the scene is and how warm it feels.

Summer in Alaska is so much more intense than anyplace I've ever lived and it's hard to explain the intensity or the appeal of it to others.  While talking to my mom this morning, I mentioned that the high yesterday was 48 with a constant drizzle, and that the clouds clearing overnight brought the temperature down to 38.  She said, "And you like living there?"  I echoed that question when she said she was on her way to watch a Memorial Day parade in the sunny muggy 80 degrees of central New York.  It's hard to explain that 50 in the sun early this afternoon felt about 20 degrees warmer than that drizzle yesterday.  And could she imagine that by late afternoon 58 on the deck would entice me to sit outside with my feet up, wide-brimmed hat on my head, sipping my first cojito* of the summer?

Summer is off to a good start in Anchortown.

* cojito: my version of a mojito = Midnight Sun Lemon Fizz, club soda, shot of tequila, and mint from the garden

18 may 12 bike to work day

The Nature Conservancy Bike Commuters
I hadn't been bicycling since late February.  Sometime that month I went over the handlebars on my friend's snowbike, which likely brought on the tendinitis and bursitis in my shoulders that has taken months to heal.  A few weeks ago the physical therapist and sports doc said that I could start riding the trainer and build up to riding outside.  I found the trainer to be more difficult than I had expected and not much fun either.  Bike to Work Day became my goal -- even though it was scheduled for a Friday when I don't normally work. 

Eventually I built up the time on the trainer and reached the next step - half an hour riding outside.  I enjoyed a sunny ride on the Campbell Creek trail several evenings before Bike to Work Day.  Riding all the way to work would be a slightly bigger leap in time than the doc prescribed but I thought the break at the half hour mark might help.  That would be the Bacon Station - a favorite stop for Paul and me at last year's BtWD.  Alas, we got there too late to partake of bacon or cinnamon rolls or free beer coupons but they were still handing out a few chocolate chip cookies and the lack of food was made up by the dozens of cyclists still hanging out on a sunny spring morning.

A few notes about Bike to Work Day in Anchorage:
~ Paul and I had to revise our route through a neighborhood because a moose was feeding next to a bike trail that cut between two houses.  Not that unusual an event in a typical bike commute here.
~ The temperature was only 36 when we left the house.  When we reached the main street outside our neighborhood, three riders were coming down the hill.  One in shorts and another in a T-shirt.  Brrr.  There was ice in the wooded wetlands near the university.
~ Only four of us were at the office on Friday and we all biked.  Emily had taken her little boy to the bacon station in an early morning ride, and Marcus stopped there with his daughter on the way to daycare.  Jessica bike-jored in.  Her sled dog Circe pulled her on a wild ride that doesn't sound like something for the faint-of-heart.  My commute was the longest - 11 miles - and  I sported the 'company colors.'

6 may 12 unexpected color

Until the deciduous trees leaf out, the Alaska spring landscape is a study of browns and grays with the muted green of the spruce.  Flowering bulbs can be found in the warm places near buildings, but the wilder places are almost colorless.  So this bright patch of green and red caught me by surprise when we were looking for birds near Talkeetna recently.  The pond we were walking around is known as Hugo's Pond for the homesteader who dammed up a small creek that flows from here into Sunshine Creek.  Springs also feed the pond so it becomes ice free earlier than other lakes and ponds in the area.  These plants (I don't know what they are) are growing on rocks in one of those springs on the pond's perimeter.  I put aside my curiosity about the shorebirds on the other side of the pond to explore this unexpected vibrancy in the otherwise dull landscape.

29 apr 12 glimpses of spring

A fast spring thaw continues here in Anchorage with snow melting about a foot per week in the yard.  The white and dark green world of our long winter is slowly transforming with the emergence of large swatches of brown ground and old gray snow berms.  A few bright spots of color are peeking out at the margins - the daffodils and muscari up against the south side of the house, the rhubarb on the snow's edge in the garden.

In the morning, the songs of robins and ruby-crowned kinglets greet me and Bhikkhu as we walk down the driveway to get the paper.  The newly exposed ground presents the little dog with new smells and old ones that were muffled for many months.  My less sensitive nose is slower to notice the earthier smell of spring.  What I notice is the warmth.  Even 30 in the morning feels warmer now than it did at midday a month ago. 

The promise of summer will soon be fulfilled.
The melt is somewhat uneven depending upon sun exposure and dark objects. In the last week over a foot of snow had melted around my meauring stick yet the snow was still over a foot deep in many parts of the garden.